Meyer To Players: Let play do the talking
Lane Kiffin
Lane Kiffin
FightinGators.com Insider
Posted Sep 13, 2009


He's made up fictitious NCAA rules. He's called out Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer as a cheater, he's tried to rub it in the noses of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and LSU for winning recruiting battles, there isn't much Tennessee Head Coach Lane Kiffin hasn't done to ruffle the feathers of his opponents. Saturday the Vols and Gators meet and Meyer wants his players to just play hard.

For a team that hasn't done much against the Gators in recent memory, this should be just another SEC game on the minds of the Gator fans. However it has taken on a greater significance because of the new coach of the Volunteers. Lane Kiffin, affectionately known as Bozo in Florida media circles, decided to stir it up with the Gators and now he can expect a very raucous crowd to meet him and his own on Saturday in The Swamp.

Urban Meyer posted bulletin board material all over the walls of the locker room area when Kiffin spouted off after signing day after “stealing” two recruits just before the February date. At the time it served as motivation for a grueling offseason and has served it's purpose.

Now, the two teams meet on opposite ends of the football spectrum. Florida is the king of college football, trying to defend their national championship, and have looked shockingly good against hapless opponents in the first two weeks.

The Vols after a big opening game, crashed back down to reality on Saturday losing at home to a lackluster UCLA team.

The Gator fans will be foaming at the mouth and wanting blood on Saturday. Paybacks are hell for the things Kiffin said about their beloved coach. Meyer knows that and in all likelihood wants that, but he wants his players to keep it on the down low and just practice and play hard this week.

“I talked to them week to week...we have had some issues in the past and we aren't all about that,” Meyer said about firing off bulletin board material for the Vols to use. “We can't control these guys (all the time), I just got them all together in the locker room and told them to have a great week of practice.”

He knows that his team has and will feed off the things that Kiffin said in February, but Meyer is more concerned about them concentrating on the guy that will line up across from them Saturday.

“Every time it comes up I am going to make sure we talk about the personnel,” he said. “That's all that matters. SEC caliber athletes on both sides of the ball performing. That's what makes the SEC so great, not the coaches. The athletes perform. The University of Florida's focus will be that and that only.”

Keeping their eye on the prize is something this team has been particularly good at in their two championship seasons under Meyer. He wants to see a repeat of that again.

“There is such an emphasis here, created by us, that it's all about the SEC and winning the East,” he said. “If you win the East you get to Atlanta. The way this thing has turned into such a great rivalry is look at the 90's and there was a time when the winner of this game was really the one that goes on to Atlanta. Obviously Georgia has a say so in that now. I think the timing of this (the third week) game and the history of the game has made the rivalry very significant.”

The Vols landed two players on signing day in February that were previously committed to Florida. One was Tennessee native Marsalis Teague who was given an in-state scholarship to boost his level of “pay” as a player that the Gators had no way of matching. The other was a South Florida prospect from Pahokee. Nu'Keese Richardson switched his allegiance on signing day after stating on camera two days earlier that he was solid to Florida.

Meyer knows this stuff happens everywhere.

“It's just the cost of business,” he said. “We have had it on the other end and understand it's part of the game. The way we recruit, we get real close to these guys, so it frustrates you. We understand it happens all across the country.”

Meyer discussed Richardson, a talent that he will likely see on the field Saturday.

“A great player and a guy that was committed to us for a long time,” Meyer said. “He's a good guy. I think a lot of it had to do with playing time, but I don't know. He is a great player.”

Certainly there will be motivation about Richardson for Florida players like starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was a high school teammate of Richardson at Pahokee. But, all of that will pretty low key along with any other bigger than life slaps at the Vols. It is a little different for Meyer now that he is at Florida instead of his previous stops at Bowling Green and Utah.

“The one thing we had at those schools is we had one big rival,” he said. “At Bowling Green it was Toledo and at Utah it was BYU. You have to be careful if you want to say LSU isn't a rival or South Carolina. I think we challenge them more with saying a Southeastern Conference opponent. We aren't like that here, it's more about the SEC.”

And Kiffin's remarks are likely be a thing of the past according to Meyer and won't let it get under his team's skin

“That's water under the bridge, a long time ago,” he said. “We are going to try and move the ball against a very good Tennessee defense. Our guys understand that and containing to pretty good backs. That has nothing to do with it.”

He has a great respect for Lane Kiffin's father, Monte. Monte Kiffin was the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before joining Tennessee in the offseason. Monte is one of the more respected coaches in all of football and Meyer has called upon him before for advice.

“Ever since I was at Notre Dame I would go down there and spend time with Coach Kiffin. He was very hospitable and obviously one of the great coaches in NFL history. I believe he came up here a year and a half ago after our tough year on defense...We have a good idea of his fundamentals of defense...He's a good person and a great coach.”

That is one reason Meyer was really caught off guard with Lane's comments in February. And maybe why he didn't fire back.

“Yes it did (surprise me) because I was fairly close with his father and I know (Monte) isn't like that,” Meyer said. “That's all over with. Monte Kiffin and myself have a very good relationship.”

It's just too bad dad didn't teach his kid some of that respect.



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